12 January 2021

Robert Walters Group releases Q4 2020 trading update

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The Robert Walters Group today released its Q4 2020 trading update, for the period ended 31 December 2020. 

Robert Walters, Chief Executive, commented: “Once again I would like to begin by thanking all of our people across the globe, whose wellbeing remains our number one priority, for the incredible durability and commitment they have shown during this most unprecedented and difficult of years. It’s their drive, passion for the business and singular focus on helping our clients and candidates that has enabled the Group to deliver such a resilient performance.

“Group net fee income for the full year was down 25% and whilst market conditions still remain challenging there were signs of improvement in forward-looking indicators during the fourth quarter, particularly in Asia Pacific, the Group’s largest region. That said, it is important to note that the volatile nature of the pandemic means our forward visibility remains limited evidenced by a number of countries recently returning to versions of lockdown.

“I am however pleased to say that the better than expected performance in the fourth quarter, coupled with the sensible and targeted short-term cost reduction and control measures that were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, means that profit for the full year is likely to be ahead of current market expectations.”

Financial and operational highlights

Gross profit (Net fee income) Q4 2020

Q4 2019

% change % change (constant currency*)
Group £71.4m £94.2m (24%) (26%)
Asia Pacific £30.2m £38.5m (21%) (23%)
Europe £21.2m £27.7m (24%) (27%)
UK £14.9m £20.7m (28%) (28%)
Other International £5.1m £7.3m (31%) (28%)
*Constant currency is calculated by applying prior period average exchange rates to local currency results for the current and prior years.
  • Group net fee income for the fourth quarter down 26% (24% actual) year-on-year representing an improvement on the 34% (33% actual) and 30% (31% actual) declines of the second and third quarters respectively.
  • 79% (2019: 78%) of the Group’s net fee income now derived from our international operations.
  • The Group’s proven ability to deliver sensible and targeted short-term cost reduction and control measures combined with the more positive than expected net fee income trend during the fourth quarter means that profit for the full year is now likely to be ahead of current market expectations.
  • Market conditions do still remain challenging however there were signs of improvement in forward-looking indicators, particularly in Asia Pacific, the Group’s largest region.
  • Demand has remained particularly robust, throughout the pandemic, across the specialist disciplines of technology, digital, healthcare, supply chain and logistics.
  • The Group’s end-to-end offering of permanent, contract and interim recruitment and recruitment process outsourcing continues to enable us to meet the varying needs of our clients and candidates across the globe.
  • The large majority of the Group’s offices are open, however the picture is volatile and changes frequently depending on local infection rates and government policy.
    • Our pre-Covid investment in technology continues to provide a competitive advantage with all staff continuing to work seamlessly and productively whether in the office or remotely.
  • Group headcount now stands at 3,147 (31 December 2019: 4,027).
  • Strong balance sheet with net cash of £154.8m as at 31 December 2020 (31 December 2019: £85.8m). The Group also has a £60m committed loan facility due for renewal in 2023. 

The Group will publish its full year results for the year ended 31 December 2020 on 2 March 2021.


Further information

Robert Walters plc                           +44 20 7379 3333
Robert Walters, Chief Executive
Alan Bannatyne, Chief Financial Officer

Williams Nicolson                             +44 7767 345 563
Steffan Williams

About Robert Walters Group
The Robert Walters Group is a market-leading international specialist professional recruitment group with over 3,100 staff spanning 31 countries. We specialise in the placement of the highest calibre professionals across the disciplines of accountancy and finance, banking, engineering, HR, IT, legal, sales, marketing, secretarial and support and supply chain and procurement. Our client base ranges from the world’s leading blue-chip corporates and financial services organisations through to SMEs and start-ups. The Group’s outsourcing division, Resource Solutions is a market leader in recruitment process outsourcing and managed services.

Forward-looking statements
This announcement contains certain forward-looking statements. These statements are made by the directors in good faith based on the information available to them at the time of their approval of this announcement and such statements should be treated with caution due to the inherent uncertainties, including both economic and business risk factors, underlying any such forward-looking information.